From Iceland — Sunna Friðjóns & Her Spells: Forage Through A Dewy Forest For Some Magical Music

Sunna Friðjóns & Her Spells: Forage Through A Dewy Forest For Some Magical Music

Published February 12, 2021

Sunna Friðjóns & Her Spells: Forage Through A Dewy Forest For Some Magical Music
Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Art Bicnick

When Sunna Friðjónsdóttir, who performs under Sunna Fridjóns, approached making her newest effort ‘Let the Light in’, she says she wanted it to sound big. “I wanted to put some power in it, some epic-ness to the foundation and to not be afraid to mix that with the piano,” she explains. “I wanted to make it plugged in but still cinematic, flowy, vulnerable and mystical.”

But while you won’t hear dramatic choirs or towering percussion in Sunna’s songs, she no doubt achieved this goal. Her songs are evocative. Full of dancing, delicate, swaying piano and light, smooth, tinkling vocals, each verse brings forth delightful visions of wondrous worlds. Her album is one to daydream to. In fact, it’s hard to listen to ‘Let the Light in’ without being sucked into a fairytale or medieval fable full of fairies, sprights, heroes and the monsters that lurk in the shadows.

A wake-up call

Sunna Fridjóns’s background is primarily in flute. While she studied both piano and flute formally as a child, by the time she was a teenager, she chose to stick with the woodwind and eventually went to university for it.

“What people always tell me is that they have these visions of forests and mystical natural vibes.”

“I had a wake-up call at university where I realised that that wasn’t what I wanted. I never fit in the classical music industry. Everything had to be done a certain way,” Sunna explains. “Many people thrive in that and that’s really cool but I didn’t see a way I could be totally me and go that route.”

That said, she loved playing and had been singing and making songs all her life, so it felt natural to shift her musical passion into songwriting. “There was more ease, more joy—more fun there,” she says.

She explains that due to this new outlook on performance, she began to really connect to the piano again, which led to the development of the Sunna Friðjóns project.

“There is just a lot of music that wants to come out of me,” she says softly. “I love to do something different, write a different song, just do whatever is fun at the moment. Follow whatever intrigues me and inspires me.”

Sunna Fridjóns, the witch & her potion

As you might expect from her music, a lot of Sunna’s inspirations come from fantasies. In fact, the first time we played the album at the Grapevine office, it sparked a debate on which universe her album existed in. I chose ‘The Lady of Shalott.’

“Some people are really good at painting a picture with words, but it’s hard to do that with your own music, you’re so far in it,” she notes. “But what people always tell me is that they have these visions of forests and mystical natural vibes.”

These visions are particularly poignant in “Inni í skugganum,” a flowing, earthy track, which became an early favourite upon first listen. The first three minutes feel straight out of a poem—I imagined a solemn sorceress tip-toeing through a dewy forest foraging ingredients for her next spell; mushrooms from the creek, herbs from under a willow, a single fallen feather from a dove.

But then, at three minutes, it’s time to brew the potion, whose magical reaction grows bigger and bigger until it bursts forth into a larger-than-life unrelentingly beautiful piano breakdown. It’s a spine-tingling uncharacteristically harsh moment from Sunna that actually spurred on one of those rare times where I re-started a song mid-listen to hear it again. A sacrilegious move, but one that felt necessary. Of course, by the end, the intensity of the spell has abated into the flowing breeze of the beginning. The effects of the reaction remain unknown—only the witch knows.

“I remember, there came so much power at that moment and I thought, well, it’s kind of like piano rock,” Sunna says. “It was experimental. We were knocking on the wood of the instruments, plucking. There were effects on the bass and distortion. It was so fun,” She smiles; her eyes crinkling at the edges.

‘Let the Light in’ ends with “Melt,” a song whose last calming minute slowly brings you out of Sunna’s fantasy and into the real world. Amazingly, it’s not a jarring shift—you’d expect leaving somewhere so lovely would be. No, instead, you can’t help but feel a bit giddy as the sounds fade away—a tad lighter, a bit more innocent. And as it fades to silence, I can’t help but think that perhaps that’s the spell the witch cast.

Sunna Friðjóns. Photo by Art Bicnick

Check out ‘Let the Light in’ by Sunna Friðjóns on all streaming platforms.

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